Earlier this year I was pondering if I should involve myself with art on loan programs that are popping up in many cities in Colorado like grandma’s bermuda grass sprouts up in her garden. I decided I might as well be on board. I was initially against the idea thinking that it would lessen the likelihood of a public art commission becoming available because a city would instead be investing in these art on loan programs which means they get a lot of art on city property for approximately one year at a time and therefore will spend less on commissioning an artist for a single work of art (phewwwwwww). It is really too good of an idea and I was vehemently against it (vehemently-geeeez, I’m never using big words). Well, I’m my wisdom I’ve learned it is wise to not be against anything, but rather for something. I thought what was I for. I was for getting public art commissions. Why? To make a living. Why? So I can do what I love to do. Why? So I can, wait a minute! Well, my conclusion was I wasn’t landing s..t as far as public art commissions so why not be gung ho for the other team. Besides it may be beneficial to have artwork with a city art on loan that way they can see if they like my work first rather than blindingly selecting an artist for a project. It got me thinking. Maybe this is why there is so much unappealing public artworks because it is hard to visualize how someone’s proposal will look. Committee’s are only seeing 8 1/2×11 proposals on a 2-d surface or 3-d maquettes at 1/12 the scale of the proposed piece. The art on loans offer something else. They introduce an existing artwork to the public for scrutinizing. If it doesn’t pass it is ignored and the city hands the sculpture back and says ‘see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya’. If it is a hit, the artist finds himself with some new friends and possibly a sale and some good publicity. While it is a financial investment to make a large sculpture it seems to be worthwhile in an ever increasing field of self titled ‘experts’ in the field in order to stand out above the rest. I feel that I am doing larger pieces because I want people and art committees to see that there is still something new that can be done with the human figure using traditional skills. There is some kind of movement going on and eventually they will listen. To me, it seems that everyone and their brother are applying for public art commissions and many of these commissions seem to be geared for the abstract I-beam artists. I’m not bitter, but I’ve realized that I’m becoming less and less against something and more and more for something and the art on loan can be the vehicle to express what I’m for. The something I am for is the new return to realism, to traditional skills. It is becoming more and more widespread as people are tired of explaining the concept behind the round rustic steel ball on the stainless steel teeter totter. We get it, art can be anything, a toilet bowl with R. Mutt or a decaying human hand in a glass box. But where is the beauty in that? Where is the beauty? Art, traditionally is about beauty. Modern art seems to be challenging that while all the traditional artworks have silently said ‘ok, go ahead, we don’t mind it being art’. But now, traditional art is breathing again. It is like it is saying ‘f..k this!’ I am following some of the realist artists in New York and Los Angeles and greatly admire their works and notice that some of them are creating movements of their own in response to the last 100 years of art history. It is with the greatest joy that I see a Jeremy Lipking painting or a Bruno Lucchesi sculpture. These artists are keeping alive the vision artists from the pre-Rodin’s era had. Actually they aren’t keeping alive, they are revitalizing art and inspiring young generations to create and challenge themselves in so many ways. As I’ve aged I’ve realized that today is a unique era in art history with a pluralism of styles. There are so many things going on it is mind blowing, but underneath it I am feeling and sensing a return to the beautiful. And oddly enough I am connecting the art on loan programs to this. For me it is a way to showcase my talent, but also to educate America that there is good artwork here. It is not just in Europe. It is starting to pop up here and there like, hmmmm, like my grandma’s bermuda grass I suppose some might say. Recently I had the opportunity to introduce the art on loan program to a city in California who had never heard of such a thing. I was asked to write a one page description and so I did and this is how it reads:
I’m thrilled to have sold my sculpture She Loves Me to a woman I met at the 2011 Loveland Sculpture show. The sculpture will be placed in an Inn west of Denver and I am quite excited and can’t wait to see it installed. The buyer will be pouring a concrete pad in the next few weeks and it’ll be placed in a small garden with flowers, a perfect setting! The inn also has a few other artwork that is faery related so this garden gnome will make plenty of friends out there. I am curious who he will be falling in love with so I will have to check back periodically to get updates. Actually me and Jessica stayed at their ‘tree house’ and it was a very pleasant stay. The tree house is the inn’s prized possession and it is three stories of magically designed architecture and interior decorating. We both hope to go back often to stay their. I’ll post pix of the sculpture after installation which should take place in the next month or two.
Jessica reminded me that I haven’t done a blog in quite a while and when I asked for her advice on subject matter she said don’t you have a project you want to say something about. And that I do. Soon after shipping 12 sculptures for the 2011 Hostfest I started on my next project. I was contacted through someone I know a couple of months ago and asked if I’d be interested in doing a memorial for a young woman who passed on 2 years ago. After meeting with the client and going over some numbers we began. The project is for a fairly large and old cemetery, dating back to around 1880. It’ll be located at the corner near one of the main entrances. The woman who is commissioning me wants to have snowboarding gear in bronze decorating the recently completed garden. It, being an old and traditional cemetery, will make for a unique memorial. In fact there is only one other memorial that stands out in the 300 acres of traditional headstones and occasional bronze statue and it incorporates water and plants with a bronze cross. This memorial will be just as beautiful without the water and cross. The client and I are both very excited at how things are shaping up. The snowboarding gear is now being molded so I hope to have it installed by Christmas of this year. It will be situated in the center of the rocks as if the young woman was putting her gear there while taking a break. While this is a project which doesn’t require a figure it is actually quite enjoyable and I’ve gotten to listen to many wonderful stories of her life. How quickly life is for some, vanished into the night but not forgotten.
Well, since the next few weeks are preparing for the big sculpture show here in Loveland I thought I’d blog about something unrelated to what I’m currently working on (to keep things fairly interesting). A couple of years ago someone I know lent me a book called “In Praise of Shadows”. I’ve read the book twice and well, I wouldn’t even call it a book, it’s more of a large pamphlet or something. Well, let’s just call it a book for now to make things easier. In this book, the author talks about Japanese aesthetics and the comparison to western ideas of beauty. It has really opened up my eyes to what I consider beautiful art and I’ve been attempting to apply the core of the book into my art. What the author says is beautiful (in Japan) have an old and imperfect nature. This imperfection is what makes them beautiful. He calls it wabi sabi. If you’d ever hear me talking to myself in my car or in my studio chances are I’d mumble the words wabi sabi in some inaudible sentence, probably even out of context (“oh, my car needs an oil change and tire rotation… wabi sabi” or “tonight I think I’ll cook chicken and rice… wabi sabi”). I think in the book he tries to not use the word imperfection as the definition, it is deeper than that or different, but that is the basis. As a sculptor who appreciates, yes, sculpture I find that the works that I am drawn to have this. Mostly they are really old sculptures that were not well taken care of, sometimes a contemporary sculptor gets it, but it is rare! What really is interesting to me is that 99.9% of the sculptors today don’t want their sculptures to look old. I mean they do to some degree, but they stop at a certain point. I can totally appreciate a Rosetta (photo) with a smooth surface and interesting patina and glossy shine to it, but it does not compare to a Bruno Lucchesi sculpture (photo). Both are contemporaries, but there is a difference. Rosetta wants her sculptures to look new and fresh as if fresh from the oven. Her collectors like that. Bruno, on the other hand, understands wabi sabi. Maybe he doesn’t know about it personally, but he knows what is beautiful. Perhaps this is all just me, but I find it really interesting. Before reading the book, my sculptures had a shine to them. The shine (if you don’t know) is mostly caused by lacquer, wax and polishing. When I look back at those sculptures I can plainly see what needs to be done to them to look better under todays household lighting. When a shiny art object is placed in a home which has artificial lighting it tends to have a cheapening effect. The object looks plasticky. Plastic is not cool when it comes to art. Well, at least in my opinion it is not cool. I was observing some of Rodin’s sculptures and noticed the works that were more interesting to me did not have this glossy surface. They looked weathered and old. Sculpture is supposed to look old and aged. Compared to painting, which seems like the newer it looks the better it is. Cracks in the paint are not considered cool in a painting, dust is not considered cool, paint brush bristles stuck in the canvas are not considered cool. Why is it that the Venus de Milo sculpture all crumbled and almost broken up into dust is still so appealing? Wabi Sabi… I think an old painting has less value than an old sculpture, but again this is just me. Sculptures age like a fine bottle of wine. Paintings age like milk. It is big difference! Paintings require personal assistants for the remainder of their lives because of the fact that it is a thin layer of color on a flat surface. If that paint is gone than there is no art. Sculptures are round, voluminous and take up space usually in a very hard and durable medium. And therefore, being without any need of a caretaker, are very independent creations who usually let nature assist them in the aging process. If they were people they’d be the old Italian farmer who has lived his whole life in the village with little money and just a few friends. Paintings are like the Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton’s, always needing attention (“I have a flaw, can someone please tend to it already!”) Notice how it’s not even a question but a statement! Sculptures are happy and content with the little they have. Well, I’m probably going waaaay off on a tangent here and I make the comparison between paintings and sculptures because it is a rivalry that goes back to at least Michelangelo’s time (between Michelangelo and da Vinci), but it’s a difference that I’ve noticed (old vs. new in the different mediums). Anyways, enough of the comparisons. I think I’ve expressed enough on wabi sabi. Tonight I’ll probably have dreams of wabi sabi (not to be confused with wasabi) if I keep going on.
As the days approach the big Loveland show I am working hard to prepare new sculptures and old ones for display. I’ve decided to repatina my old pieces as I’ve found that brown (ferric nitrate) works the best for my style of work. I also went out and bought some good strobe lights and reshot these 4 sculptures.
In between coats of rubber on two of my newest sculptures I decided to weld together this table top nude sculpture I made. A couple of months ago my studio mate and myself decided to purchase a welder. We both are bronze sculptors and it seemed like a smart decision as opposed to paying someone to do what we both know how to do. Fortunately I was taught tig welding by a well known sculptor here in town and can assemble table top pieces as well as life size bronzes, although I’m not very good at it and half the time I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, lol. So far I haven’t had any close calls with weld drips running into my arm or leg (knock on wood) so that is good. This sculpture is about 12″ high and there were 3 sections to join together as well as 2 core holes to fill in which were about 1″ diameter. After I welded it all together I chased (grinded and blended) the welds, sandblasted, and patinaed. This is why bronze sculptures are so dang expensive; TIME CONSUMING! I spent about 2 1/2 hrs from the welding to the patina stages. Well, It is 1am and figure I should get to sleep now.
I’ve been working on a sculpture for the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND for about 2 months or so. The sculpture is about 12″ high and bronze castings will be used as an award to volunteers at the annual festival. At this point it is just about approved of in clay, there are a couple of minor changes as the client has specified them over the phone. Hopefully next week I can start the mold making of it. I am working with one other person on this (in addition to the director of the Norsk Hostfest) and normally this can be a royal pain in the patuty (with conflicting opinions, etc etc.), but fortunately in this case it has been great! The gentleman that has been helping a great deal lives in Manhattan and is a good friend of Chester’s so his input is very valuable. All of the suggestions (and there have been plenty of them) have tremendously improved the piece. If I showed a before and after it would be clear.
Gosh, is this getting monotonous already? I haven’t figured out what to say and how much to say and when to post and how much information people read on this. BTW, this is my first post so I’m kinda getting the feel for this. My girlfriend Jessica helped me get my page setup. Luckily, I didn’t use the hammer to unleash my frustrations… yet! I’ve wanted to setup a blog for a couple of years, actually after watching the movie Julie and Julia I was so ready to do it, but I gave up the next day as it seemed difficult to setup and maintain. Well, we’ll see how long I continue, but for now I’m gonna blog about 1 of 2 of my current projects I’m working on.
So… the sculpture is looking fairly good. In my opinion it is finished. I have tried to keep the looseness that all of my fine art sculptures have, but it is something that is hard to do on commissioned work as they generally take much longer than a piece that I whip out of my head.